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Recently I went out for a morning walk and set the intention of practicing the skill of presence. I did so by consciously choosing to leave my headphones at home during my walk.
The walk went through a beautiful city park close to home. I frequently walk here when wanting to get out from behind the computer. This particular day was sunny and warm and I decided to choose a different path this time, one that went through the forest beside the park.
WHAT CAN SHOW UP
As I came close to the trees the first thing I noticed were the frogs singing. I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I heard this, so I actually stopped to simply listen. It took me back to mornings as a child when my bedroom window was open and I could hear frogs croaking outside.
Then the birds started to sing. It’s been a very warm summer with no rain and I realized I had not heard the birds singing in a long time. It took me out of the city and away from all the worries and concerns that were left sitting back on my computer. Suddenly squirrels ran out down from the trees with acorns in their mouths, one stopping on the path to crack his open. It reminded me that fall was just around the corner and these lovely warm walks in the sun would soon be over.
Smelling the cedar chips on the path, seeing a few leaves on the trees begin to change and hearing the animals all because I was practicing presence, shifted my feelings of exhaustion and worry about work. The affect was an awareness that there are bigger things going on in the world than just the emails and deadlines waiting on my computer at home. Mother Nature is still out there doing her thing.
There was one thing that stood out from everything I noticed on this walk while practicing presence. Upon sitting on a bench in the sun overlooking a cricket pitch, I noticed someone walking across the wet grass of the field: barefoot and holding their shoes.
I found this curious as it was early morning and still cool and of course the grass was still wet. It made me think about when was the last time I went walking on the beach in bare feet, allowing the sand to slip through my toes. To feel the dryness and softness of the grains. To actually get in touch with the earth.
A few minutes later, to my surprise, I saw another person do the same thing! Slowly walking across the grass, shoes in hand.
Because of my presence to the moment I thought this must be a sign. A sign that perhaps I needed to be more present with my surroundings too. So I untied my shoes, took off my socks and sunk my feet into the deep, moist, green grass. I simply noticed what was going on as I walked along. The grass was cold, and very wet. Small pieces stuck to my feet. But it was also soft and plush. I couldn’t remember the last time I had stopped to just be present in the moment. To feel a connection to the things around me.
The result was a greater sense of peace and relaxation throughout the remainder of the day.
THE VALUE OF PRESENCE IN COMMUNICATION
By practicing the skill of presence, as I chose to do that day, the skill grows. With an awareness of presence we can choose to bring it into our relational conversations as well. Using the skill of Level 2 listening is a practice in being present for the one who is speaking to us. In Level 2 listening our presence is on what is going on for the other person versus being focused on our own thoughts. It’s a huge way to improve communication skills.
By practicing the skill of presence what can show up for you? Practicing need not be a daily activity but it is a conscious choice to allow a little space for it in your life. Not only may it bring you some much needed respite from the stresses of your day but perhaps even someone’s gratitude for being present with them.